When children are given the keys to the internet unsupervised, encountering accidental porn, and accidental adult content of all types, is a real possibility. In fact, if you do enough searches on Google or YouTube, you are likely to come across something sooner or later that you’d rather your kids not see.
Kiddle, the kid-friendly search property, is trying to solve that problem. Kiddle is not a search engine per se, it is built on top of Google Safe Search, and uses human editors to both refine the content of the search results that are returned, and to create a list of terms that kids are not allowed to search for.
The latter, the list of prohibited search terms, has been drawing scrutiny of late. Earlier this month, in an article at BBC titled Kiddle search engine for children causes controversy, the publication described outrage from LGBT groups that terms such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender were blocked from search. Clearly, some young kids attempt to search the internet for information about sexuality, and we argue should be able to. Kiddle quickly revered course on LBGT-friendly search content.
The week, Daily Dot has weighed in (The trouble with censoring Kiddle, the new ‘Google for kids’), specifically calling out another of Kiddle’s prohibited search categories – anything related to sex or sexual body parts. Uterus, labia. safe sex, vagina, penis, testicles, and semen are all on the Black List.
From Elizabeth King, author of the Daily Dot article:
“Contrary to some popularly held beliefs, children and adolescents can handle information about sex. Not only that, they deserve information about sex and reproduction, because that their physical and emotional health is at stake.
It’s clear that the creators of Kiddle wanted to build a corner of the Internet where children would be ostensibly “safe” in a very vague and conservative sense of the term, but how much are we really protecting children by withholding basic information about their bodies? Instead of taking the easy route and filtering anything that could be sexual, Kiddle needs to do the more difficult and nuanced work of finding age-appropriate information related to biological search terms, and the rest of us need to step up and make sure kids have good information when they’re looking for information about their own bodies.”
We agree with the author’s conclusion. It is impossible to filter for age appropriate content for a range of ages without excluding too much or too little. Despite the best efforts by Kiddle, we fear they are going to fall short of creating a perfect platform for their intended audience.
In short, deciding what your child can access on the internet continues to be the responsibility of parents. We’re okay with that.
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